The association of affectionate touch and well-being among older married adults

Lockhart, Peggy
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In today’s society, we touch our cell phones more than we touch each other. Touch is the first language of communication that we learn as human beings and by far the most fundamental and straightforward of all of the sensory systems. Affectionate touch is not only a critical component of physiological and psychological regulation in all humans; it is also related to increased mortality and morbidity in older adults. Touch is not only fundamental across the life span, but older individuals tend to rely heavily on touch, especially in times of increased stress. At an age when human touch is still very important, many older adults are experiencing less and less physical contact. Though the medical field has long recognized the fundamental human need and physical benefit of touch for all age groups, the psychosocial value of touch for older adults has continued to attract little research. Utilizing data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project data (NSHAP, 2005 - 2011), this study extends the current literature by assessing the relationship of affectionate touch and three aspects of well-being in older, married adults. Examined both longitudinally and in a cross-sectional model, the main findings of this research study showed that affectionate touch influenced well-being outcomes in older, married adults. Additional findings also yielded important information on the role of perceived partner support and perceived stress in the relation of affectionate touch and well-being in older, married adults. Finally, implications of these findings, as well as future directions for research in affectionate touch among older adults are discussed.

affectionat touch, older adults, relationships, stress, well-being